Ambassador Gordon Sondland said he was acting on directions from Donald Trump when he told Ukrainian officials that they would need to publicly announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden before the U.S. would release nearly $400 million in military aid, according to testimony by a former top National Security Council official. That official, Timothy Morrison, delivered his testimony behind closed doors on October 31, but the House Intelligence Committee finally released a full transcript on Saturday.
Morrison testified that he was present at meeting on September 1 in Warsaw, Poland, where Sondland met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. After Sondland spoke to Yermak, he relayed what was said to Morrison.
"What could help them move the aid was if the prosecutor general would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation," Sondland told Yermak, according to Morrison's testimony. Burisma is the Ukrainian natural gas company that had hired Biden's son, Hunter Biden, to sit on its board of directors.
Sondland's account of the conversation was the first time Morrison heard the investigation announcement "injected as a condition" for release of the withheld military aid.
Morrison said that what he called the Burisma "bucket" included all of the investigations desired by Trump, including probes of Joe and Hunter Biden, as well as investigations of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, and Ukraine's supposed role in 2016 election interference, a belief held by Trump that has been described as a "conspiracy theory" and a "hoax" by investigative journalists.
Morrison also testified that Sondland regularly communicated with Trump about the Ukraine investigations and the military aid package.
"He related to me he was acting -- he was discussing these matters with the President," Morrison said in the transcript.
Morrison's testimony, according to a CNN analysis, "adds additional corroboration... that Sondland said he was acting at Trump's direction" when he linked the release of aid to Ukraine's willingness to announce the investigations.
Sondland said he was assured by Trump that there was no "quid pro quo," but "President Zelensky must announce the opening of the investigations and he should want to do it," according to Morrison's testimony.
Morrison also said that every time Sondland told him he had spoken to Trump, Morrison made efforts to independently confirm that the ambassador was telling the truth. He never found any instance in which Sondland had not spoken with Trump, according to a Washington Post report on the testimony.